Investors Realty Celebrates 40 Years
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record
According to Bloomberg Business, 8 out of 10 start-ups fail within the first 18 months. Of those that beat the odds, certainly not many of them can boast four decades in business.
Investors Realty can. What’s more, the brokerage and property management company’s founders are still involved in its day-to-day operations.
Steve Farrell and Jerry Heinrichs started the business on June 1, 1975. “We started with one other broker and a secretary,” Farrell said. “We focused on investment properties and commercial real estate sales, and over the years we put together some partnerships. We helped people buy and sell properties, so we needed to add property management services. We did that in the early to mid-1980s. The business just progressed from there.
“Today, we have 20 brokers and seven property managers. And we manage four million square feet of property.”
Farrell and Heinrichs took slightly different paths to their careers.
“I had a counselor at UNO who suggested a couple of fields for me to consider,” Farrell said. “UNO had real estate as a major, and it sounded interesting. It was a field that wouldn’t lock me behind a desk. I was working in construction to pay my way through college. I worked as a laborer doing brickwork and flatwork for Vacanti.
“When I got out of college, I had a couple of opportunities. One was with Dial Realty. When I first went there, I coordinated their land development activities. In 1974, I went to Colorado Springs and I oversaw zoning and development of properties.
“Then the recession hit, and I moved back to Omaha. Jerry and I worked together at Dial, and we had similar feelings about how to do business. I was young and dumb and figured we could do it.”
“I grew up around construction, and I got a job with a company that transferred me to Kansas City,” Heinrichs said. “My wife and I decided to move back to Omaha, and for about five years, I sold houses. I was a sales manager for Dial Realty, and (Steve) and I were working together. We decided to go into business together. We just thought we would give it a try.”
Their first office was a 715-square-foot space at 115th and Davenport. “It had three offices and a reception area,” Farrell said. “Our first purchase was a coffee pot. We went from there.”
After a few years, they moved to their second office in the First Westroads Bank. “There were six or seven offices there,” Heinrichs said.
They didn’t have to move very far for their current location, which is at 113th and Davenport. “We now occupy the entire building,” Heinrichs added.
“I probably got more nervous after our first year,” Farrell said. “The real estate business is fee-based, and deals can take several months to a year to shape up. There were a few periods when we struggled to pay our light bill, but it all seemed to connect in 1978 when we settled into this place. Since then we have had steady, controlled growth. [Overall], business has been reasonably stable.
“There have certainly been ups and downs, but we have stayed busy even when times have been bad. It has never been our goal to be the biggest company in Omaha, but to be the best. That was our focus.”
“We have always put the client before ourselves,” Heinrichs added.
“Technology – email and computers – has really allowed us to be more productive,” Farrell said. “We used to have to use standard calculators, and had to work through tables. That took hours. Now you can do it in five minutes. You just push a button and it spits it out.
“We used to have to type with carbon paper, and if you made a mistake you had to redo it. We had to drive to deliver [documents]. Now you send an email and you get an answer in a few minutes. Technology has allowed for more efficiency and growth.”
Both Farrell and Heinrichs said that knowing the industry and the marketplace has been an important factor in their success, and the best way that they could do that was to become Certified Commercial Investment Members (CCIM), which means that the person is a “recognized expert in the commercial and investment real estate industry.”
“Jerry was the first CCIM in Nebraska,” Farrell said. “We have now nine CCIMs in our office – which, on a percentage basis, is the highest number in the country.”
To be successful in real estate, Heinrichs said that one should be a “people person” and be organized, persistent and self-managed. “It takes hard work. There are no salaries, so you have to keep your drive going.”
Having worked in the real estate industry for four decades, both men are getting ready to retire…kind of.
“I have been in transition for retirement for five years,” Heinrichs said. “It is time for me to slow down, but I love real estate. I have worked with a lot of fun and interesting people. I’m still here because I haven’t found anything better to do or that I enjoy more.”
“I’m 66 years old, and I’m still here every day, but I get help from some of the younger guys, which allows me some flexibility in my schedule,” Farrell said.
He added, “I have told people that I will continue as long as I am having fun and bringing value. I enjoy helping people solve problems, and every day is different. There are always different projects, and I get to work with different people. I’ve enjoyed it. There is satisfaction in what we do. There is satisfaction in getting the job done.”
Current company president R.J. Neary joined Investors Realty in 1987, and will usher the company into the future.
“From an outsider’s perspective, this seemed to be an attractive culture,” Neary said. “It’s a fun place to work. [Joining the company] was one of the best career moves I have made in my life. They approach each transaction with the idea of adding value to that transaction. The core values remain the same, but I think they will get bigger and better. That will evolve.
“We will become more full service with a larger spectrum of clients. We serve everyone from small investors to Fortune 500 companies. Our core brokerage team wasn’t born when this company was started, and yet most have 12 to 15 years of experience. The future looks bright.”
Investors Realty Celebrates 40 Years